The United Kingdom (UK) is adopting an Australian-style points system to replace their current immigration approach now that the UK has left the European Union. Under the new points system, migrants will have to accumulate at least 70 points in order to be eligible for a visa. The new Immigration Bill will come into force on 1 January 2021, officially marking the end of free movement.
“Under the new system, anyone moving to the UK will have to speak English and already have a job lined up,” says Ryan Rennison, managing director of UK immigration firm, Move Up.
“The UK government has already announced that the new system is meant to gear the UK into a ‘high wage, high skill, high productivity economy’, which is excellent news for South Africans currently earning high wages in certain sectors, who are also interested in immigrating to the UK” he adds.
A statement from the UK government said: ‘For too long, distorted by European free movement rights, the immigration system has been failing to meet the needs of the British people. Our approach will change all of this.’
The new system awards 10 points straight away if applicants can speak English to a certain level. Job offers from approved sponsors – employers who have been cleared by the Home Office – and a job at a ‘required skill level’ will then earn them 20 points each. Further points may be awarded for particular qualifications and whether there is a shortage in that occupation.
According to Rennison, “Anyone fortunate enough to receive a job offer prior to moving to the UK must earn a minimum of £25,600 per year (lowered from £30,000), however, individuals who earn above £20,480 may move to the UK if they have a job offer on the government’s job shortage list, or a relevant post doctorate qualification. This means lower earners, such as nurses, may be able to get visas due to staff shortages.”
Highly skilled workers, such as scientists, technology or maths professionals, can also move without a job offer, if they are endorsed by a ‘relevant and competent body’. Students will have to have an offer for their studies.
According to the policy: ‘UK businesses will need to adapt and adjust to the end of free movement, and we will not seek to recreate the outcomes from free movement within the points-based system.
‘As such, it is important that employers move away from a reliance on the UK’s immigration system as an alternative to investment in staff retention, productivity, and wider investment in technology and automation.’
Estimates show that around 70% of the EU workforce currently living in the UK would not meet the requirements of the skilled worker route.
A pilot scheme for seasonal workers in agriculture will be quadrupled from 2,500 to 10,000 places, while students wanting to study in the UK will have to be able to speak English, support themselves financially through their studies and have an offer from an approved educational institution.
Arrangements for specialist jobs such as religious workers, artists, musicians and entertainers are expected mostly to remain the same. Self-employed individuals and freelancers may continue to apply for visas under the existing rules and do not require sponsorship.